Justin Smith briefly spoke with the media on Friday, and he emphasized the value of a little health. Smith tore his triceps muscle in late 2012, spending the playoffs essentially one-armed before offseason surgery. He then suffered a shoulder injury in 2013, which required surgery after the offseason. Smith has been dealing with injuries on and off for the last season and a half, but this year, he is finally healthy.
His Friday comments resulted in an early front-runner for quote of the year:
#49ers DT Justin Smith on his improved health: "I can use my left arm this year, so I guess that's a plus."— Taylor Price (@TaylorPrice49) October 3, 2014
The San Francisco 49ers defensive line has been playing extremely well to start this season. The pass rush remains a question mark, but they have dominated against the run, and Smith has been the primary force in the pass rush, alongside Aaron Lynch.
Having Smith healthy is so essential for a group that is short-handed behind him. Aldon Smith and NaVorro Bowman do different things on defense than Smith, but having him fully healthy helps compensate in some way for the absence of those two. He is strong in the run, an absolute force as a pass rusher, and so it helps mitigate the losses. And if the 49ers can just continue to tread water until Aldon and Bowman return, they could be in line for a strong close to the season.
And let's not forget Glenn Dorsey as well. He will likely fill more of a rotational role behind Justin Smith, Ray McDonald and Ian Williams. Having Dorsey available to spell those three will result in a group that could be that much more fresh as a potential playoff game approaches.